Fork-in-the-Road Burgers (with a Kick)

Makes 6 burgers

Whoo-wee, we love our burgers. They’re grilled summertime bliss, all sizzled up. And as long as the weather is still cooperating, there will be patties on the grill.

But after one or two straight-up burgers, many of us crave a little more somethin’-somethin’ — a little more pop and a little more pizzazz and a little more flavor. But sometimes our kids aren’t on the same page; that regular old burger suits them just fine. Luckily, burgers are a perfect fork-in-the-road dish (see Note).

In the case of burgers, you can make a spicy Cajun version for those who want more bang for their burger, and leave some plain for the kids, or the less spice-inclined. And, you can certainly use a smaller amount of the spice mix in some of the burgers — maybe half a teaspoon or so per handful of meat, so that the burgers have more interest, but aren’t so spicy that they cause kids to scrunch up their noses.

Now, everyone is eating burgers, harmony reigns throughout the land, and you still have only one meal to make. Go for freshly ground meat from the butcher counter, if that’s at all possible, and check out the variation below if you’re in a turkey-burger frame of mind.

Fork-in-the-Road Burgers (with a Kick)


  • 1 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chuck (about 80/20)
  • Sliced Monterey Jack or Provolone cheese (optional)
  • 6 hamburger buns, to serve, toasted if desired
  • Condiments, sliced tomatoes, lettuce to serve (optional)

1. In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, paprika, dry mustard, cumin, coriander, oregano, salt, pepper and cayenne.

2. Place the ground beef in a large bowl. If you want all of the burgers to be seasoned with the spice mix, dump it all in and use your hands to combine it well.

3. If you want to take out some meat for plain burgers, take out the amount you want to be unseasoned and mix it up with salt and pepper to taste in a smaller bowl, using your hands. Keep in mind that you’ll be making a total of six burgers. Remove 1 1/2 teaspoons of the seasoning mix from the little bowl for each of the burgers you’re making plain, and save it in a small sealed container or zipper top baggie for another time (see Note). Combine the remaining seasoning with the remaining beef in the mixing bowl, using your hands.

4. Form all of the meat into six patties in total, and use your fingers to make an indentation in the middle of each patty; this helps the burgers end up relatively flat, as they will swell up during grilling. Without the indent, they can become quite fat in the middle, and the toppings slip and slide off.

5. Preheat a grill to medium-high. Grill the burgers for about 4 minutes on each side, or until they are cooked as you like them. Keep the unseasoned burgers to one side of the grill so you don’t mix them up, though they will have a less reddish tone. The FDA recommends an internal temperature of 160°F for cooked ground meat, but you may decide differently. If you want cheeseburgers, place a slice of cheese on each of those burgers and cover for the last minute of cooking until the cheese is melted. Place each burger on a bun, pass the condiments, and let everyone top their own.

(Adapted from a post originally published on Kitchen Daily)

What's a fork-in-the-road dish?

This is the idea that you can separate out some of whatever you are making and make a simpler version for picky eaters, then continue on your merry way and gussy up the rest of the dish with gutsier ingredients, herbs, seasonings, etc. to give it more oomph for the grownups and adventurous eaters.
What to do with leftover burger seasoning?

Toss some cubes of beef, pork or chicken with the mix and kebab them up, or just rub it on pieces of the aforementioned meat and roast or grill. You could also use it to season a simple vegetable soup.


Not feeling so beefy? You can also use ground turkey. Just try to find turkey that is 85 or 90% lean — not ultra lean, which will be too dry. Also, add a beaten raw egg to the turkey for extra moisture.

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